Worker’s Compensation For Work-From-Home Employees (Telecommuting)
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many of us to stay at home and work remotely, you may be asking: Will I still be covered by worker’s comp if I get hurt while working from home? We know that workers’ compensation may cover injuries even if they occurred outside the workplace. In general, an injury or illness is compensable if it is job-related, regardless of location.
However, if you are looking to claim worker’s comp for your work-from-home injury or illness, you’ll likely find the claim more difficult. A gray area exists in the matter of telecommuting workers’ comp, so you can expect greater challenges from the insurance company, your employer, and a defense lawyer. Learn how Virginia’s workers’ compensation rules apply to telecommuters, and what you can do for your claim.
Main Criteria For Workers’ Compensation In VA
Under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, compensable injuries and illnesses are those “arising out of and in the course of the employment.”
When we say it “arises out of the employment,” it means that the injury or illness is particular to your job – in other words, a work-related hazard. An example might be if your job required you to haul boxes and you broke your back in the process, or if your long hours at the computer caused a repetitive stress injury. If you simply tripped on the stairs in your house or slipped on the ice on your driveway while going about your day, you might have a harder time proving that your injury arose from your employment.
The second criterion, “arising in the course of the employment,” refers to the time of the injury. It must have occurred while you were expected to perform your employee duties. If you decided to work at home while on vacation or when taking time off, a worker’s comp claim originating from that may be rejected.
Additional Considerations For Telecommute Workers’ Compensation Claims
Does workers’ compensation still apply if you are working from home? In short, yes. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, multiple courts have agreed that remote work still makes you eligible for worker’s compensation. But because you are not in the workplace, it will be more difficult to establish that your injury or illness is covered. To minimize this gray area, you’ll want to ensure the following:
- You are an employee, not a contractor. We emphasize this because many telecommuting workers are independent contractors or freelancers, not hired employees. Workers’ comp law only covers duly hired employees, so check your employment status.
- You have clear work-from-home rules. If you are among the many Virginia workers who transitioned from workplace attendance to working from home, see if you can get a telecommuting agreement with your employer. This can define some matters such as your expected hours of work, log-in/log-out procedures, and safety responsibility over your equipment and environment.
- Your home workspace is comparably safe. Offices and worksites are subject to workplace safety standards to prevent harm on employees. You are not required to adhere to these standards at your own residence, but to help your potential workers’ comp claim, aim for a similar level of safety when working from home. Your employer or their insurance carrier could easily refute your work injury claim if they find that your house itself has unsafe conditions. You may talk to your employer , for example, about using company equipment at home instead of your own (such as computers and electronics). It’s best to specify the safety liability of each party in your work-from-home agreement.
Telecommuting is a relatively new development in the labor landscape. It’s only natural that workers have questions regarding their legal rights during this time, especially since many of us have had to transition to remote work so suddenly. Talk to a workers’ comp attorney if you have any concern about your work-from-home benefits and rights.
Call Slominski Law
Attorney Jaleh K. Slominski has helped numerous Virginia workers secure their rightful compensation, even in complicated and heavily challenged cases. She keeps thoroughly up-to-date on telecommuting legal developments and she’s ready to discuss your situation. Call the Slominski Law Lynchburg office at (434) 384-9400, or our Roanoke office at (540) 554-3762.